Ami Horowitz

The U.N. kept dismissing it as an unfounded rumor. It laughed it off as a figment of the paranoid imaginations of anti-U.N. conspiracy theorists. The U.N. itself said that it was “simply not a priority.”

Studies have now confirmed what was apparent from the outset. Nearly 5,000 Haitians died, and nearly half a million more Haitians were sickened, because the United Nations introduced Cholera to a country that had not seen the disease in over 100 years.

As someone who has been making a movie about the U.N. over the past couple of years (theunmovie.com), I have known and followed the massive peacekeeper abuses that the U.N. has recently been responsible for, the selling of weapon for gold to rebels, the rapes and sexual abuse, the standing silent when slaughter is taking place under their watch, but this is different. One of the few things that the U.N. has been relatively good at is disaster relief. Even U.N. critics would laud them for their quick deployment to countries ravaged by natural disaster. This event shatters any vestige of that belief.

In many ways this is really a microcosm of the U.N. Good intentions turning into failure by either politicization or naked incompetence. This case is magnified because the deaths were coupled by a complete disregard for the facts and an almost bizarre disdain for the victims. The U.N. refused to acknowledge the source of these fatal bacteria and sneered at their accusers in the face of undeniable circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that they were, in fact, responsible. Health officials could not believe the resistance that they faced from U.N. officials. The outbreak and ensuing outrage built to such a pitch that Haitians were protesting in the still dangerous earthquake-ruined streets. Yet the U.N. did nothing to investigate their role in the epidemic, and in fact inveigled and deflected the issue.

This was obviously an enormously fragile time for Haiti, where the nation hung in the balance after the unimaginable disaster that struck that long-troubled country. Knowing that, for the U.N. not to take the most basic steps as making sure that its troops were not bringing in deadly contagions into an already delicate ecosystem is unforgivable. The fact that it did nothing to determine whether or not it was responsible after mounting circumstantial evidence pointed directly towards U.N. peacekeepers, was criminal. The U.N. simply alleged that people were playing “the blame game” and that dealing with this question was “not a priority.” Nearly 5,000 deaths later, I wonder if they now think that it should have been a priority.


Ami Horowitz

Ami Horowitz is a filmmaker and co-director of the forthcoming film U.N. Me.